Remembering the Bangladesh Garment Factory Fire

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Nov 23, 2022

November 24, 2022, marks a decade since the occurrence of the deadliest factory fire in Bangladesh’s history. The blaze happened at Tazreen Fashion, a garment factory in Dhaka, claiming the lives of 112 workers while injuring 200 more. Likely started as the result of an electrical short, the fire rapidly spread up the nine floors where garment workers were trapped due to narrow or blocked fire escapes. Many died in the building or while seeking escape. There is no debating that several safety protocols had not been set properly in place, which thereby increased the fire’s impact.

Fire officials say the blaze started on the ground floor of the nine-story factory where large quantities of fabric and yarn were illegally stored in a room without fireproof walls. The flammable materials caught fire and spread quickly to the other floors. Smoke filled the building’s three staircases which all led to the ground floor, rendering them unusable and trapping workers on the higher floors. Some workers managed to make it to the roof for rescue. Others jumped to their deaths in a last-ditch effort to escape the flames.

Further investigation revealed a host of building code violations, such as blocked staircases, a lack of a sprinkler system and fire escapes and the absence of a required, closed-circuit television monitoring system. Negligence on the part of the managerial staff was cited as well, as survivors later reported having been told by their superiors not to leave their workstations and that the sounding fire alarm was simply malfunctioning. Additionally, it was discovered that none of the fire extinguishers appeared to have been utilized during the blaze and that the building’s fire safety certificate had expired six months prior in June 2012.

The Tazreen factory’s devastating fire undeniably exposed the overall atmosphere of unsafe work conditions in garment factories across the nation and helped prompt the creation of initiatives to improve safety protocols. In November 2013, three safety regulation groups, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and the National Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety and Structural Integrity, agreed to look into adopting a new unified set of workplace safety standards. They called for increased fire inspections, training of factory inspectors, transparency and public documentation of inspection results as well as regulation of spacing of exits to ensure evacuation from multiple sides.

Tragedies like the fire at Tazreen Fashion are preventable. Through adoption of fire protection standards and regular fire safety inspections, testing, and maintenance, building occupants can be protected from potential fire hazards. As members of national and global regulatory organizations, Jensen Hughes experts participate in the development of fire safety codes and stay up-to-date on codes and standards interpretation. Learn more about our fire and life safety code consulting and inspection, testing, and maintenance services.